How to play low pairs in poker is a debate that leads from the most novice players to the most expert players. The debate surrounding how to develop this game is extensive and it is difficult to reach an agreement, since multiple variables also intervene that will define how to approach these combinations.
It is not the same to play a low pair from the ‘dealer’ than from ‘UTG’ since the position is decisive. It is radically different how to play low pairs in poker with many chips or with few. And, furthermore, it has nothing to do with facing these cases with many crossed bets or doing it with a clean hand. Not to mention that a purely low pair like ‘2-2’ is not the same as a pair like ‘7-7’. Even a ‘T-T’ can be considered low pair by those more conservative types of players.
Apart from everything, there are some fairly clear considerations. A pocket pair must always be taken into account, at the very least. It is the entry way to link very powerful hands, such as sets or full-house, and to a lesser extent poker. In other words, largely forget about these brutal combinations if you don’t know how to play low pairs in your poker games. In turn, they are very unpredictable hands for rivals.
Also, these small pairs will easily put you over 50% in heads-up hands. But all that glitters is not gold. These types of hands can be very treacherous, because if the trio does not come out and you are an insecure player you can suffer when you see cards higher than your 4-4, for example.
Small preflop pairs: How to play them?
The priority with low pairs will always be to go preflop, either with the intention of seeing the flop or, why not, winning the entry hand. Of course, they are not hands with which we will have the security of going with everything. These are some guidelines for playing low pairs in poker even with several players at the table and without significant changes in our stack.
If there are no more bets, we will make a moderate raise in order to protect ourselves and stay against few players.
If there are moderate bets, we will match up to 10% of our ‘stack’, since the cost/benefit ratio is interesting at the beginning of the game. Once it is more developed, we will develop.
We will avoid exceeding 20% of our chips or bankroll to match a bet with a low pair, especially with many players at the table
If we are in early positions, the ideal will be a moderate raise to obtain information from our rivals, in later positions we will match previous raises with the above considerations. In a clean hand, we would bet as well.
Do you think it’s risky to enter with such force with low pairs? Poker is like that! The good player chooses carefully which hands to play, but the ones he plays must be done aggressively, especially with the intention of obtaining information from the other players. Also, playing a 3-3 with a raise saves you, for example, an opponent with 8-9 hooking into the hand, with the option of getting that 8 on the flop.
Post-Flop Low Pairs: Let the Fun Begin!
An inconvenient truth: you usually won’t flop a set with low pair. Now, that doesn’t mean you haven’t made the right decision. In the long run, the profitability of that possible set or full house (with a large part of the non-community cards in the combination) will pay off enormously. Also, not combining the trio does not mean that we have lost the hand, since we can still win it by value or by bluffing. What will we do postflop?
The ideal with a clean hand is to raise, make a continuation bet. Thus we will obtain information from the rival, with options to win the hand. Even if our pair is not very short (7-7, for example) we can really be winners of the hand.
Here hand reading will be key. If a player has limped in and there are no face cards on the board, you can push with your bets, even on the turn and river, to try to fold him. On the other hand, if you see two big figures in that same case, you should consider a retreat.
What if we bind a monster? In this case, the ideal will be to hide our strength with a ‘check’, and hope that the strength of the rival ruins him. Of course, if your combination is a trio and you see consecutive cards, or several cards of the same suit, you could consider a firewall bet. Don’t give away cards for a flush draw.
Do you see it complicated? Indeed it is, but you can find many other poker strategies in this article. The best advice we can give you is to combine theory (with articles and books for specific situations) with practice.
How to play low pairs in poker in special situations?
So far we have seen the tips for playing low pairs in very generic situations, but this is not always the case. In heads-up play, or even with few players alive at a table or tournament, a low pair is a powerful hand no matter how small. You can bet hard, because sometimes it will make you win, as the rivals usually have worse hands. You must safely play low pairs, but always keeping the reading of the hand and of the opponent.
Another occasion where low pairs should be taken more into account is in complicated game situations. If your ‘stack’ is 400 and the blinds are 100, due to a bad play, you should probably consider that a pair, especially if it is intermediate and not so low, is your last chance to go ‘all-in’ and re-engage with the match.
How to play low pairs in poker has nothing written in stone, and a correct development will depend on the particular ability of each player. This article is just a few guidelines, but in the end it is the magic of adapting to the situation that will mark you as a good poker player.